An igloo is a traditional winter dwelling made of blocks of snow. The number of blocks needed to build an igloo depends on its size and shape. Generally, a small igloo can be made with around 500 blocks, while larger ones may require thousands of blocks. The blocks are cut from compacted snow and shaped like bricks. They are then stacked in a circular pattern, with each layer slightly overlapping the one below. This creates a strong and stable structure. The exact number of blocks will vary based on the builder’s skill, the size of the igloo, and the density of the snow.
The Three Little Pigs constructed houses using straw, sticks, and bricks. However, their choice of materials is probably due to the fact that they did not live in an arctic environment. If they had lived in such conditions, they would most likely have built their houses out of snow and ice. This raises the question of how well an igloo would fare against the Big Bad Wolf…
People in different regions of the world build houses using different materials based on their availability. For instance, areas abundant in wood and stone tend to have popular wooden and stone houses.
In areas with extreme weather, however, building materials may be scarce or entirely absent. In Alaska and the frigid regions of the Canadian tundra, for example, it can be challenging to find suitable building materials. Instead, the native people of these areas, known as the Inuit or Eskimos, utilize a readily available resource: snow.
The Inuit refer to their homes as iglu, which is the origin of the term “igloo” meaning “snow house”. Originally constructed by hunters to withstand harsh cold weather conditions, igloos have been in existence for thousands of years.
Your mental image of an igloo may have been shaped by cartoons on television, but it is likely quite accurate. Many igloos are simple dome-shaped structures made entirely out of blocks of snow and ice.
However, igloos can come in various shapes and sizes. There is no single method for building an igloo, and the number of blocks required depends on the size and design chosen by the builder.
While some igloos are designed to accommodate a single person during hunting trips, others can house a small village with interconnected igloos featuring ceremonial rooms, corridors, and walls.
It may seem peculiar for people living in extreme cold to construct shelters out of snow and ice. After all, snow and ice themselves are incredibly cold, right? Surprisingly, igloos can be quite comfortable to live in.
The walls of an igloo provide insulation against the icy winds prevalent in these areas. Additionally, snow happens to be an excellent insulator. This means that the heat generated inside the igloo, whether from a small oil lamp or body heat, tends to stay inside. Consequently, the interior temperature of an igloo can be up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the outside temperature.
Moreover, igloos become stronger and warmer over the course of several days after their initial construction. As trapped heat causes slight melting inside the igloo, the melted snow refreezes when the igloo is unoccupied. This cycle of thawing and refreezing over a few days eventually transforms the entire structure into solid ice, which is even more robust and warmer than the original design.
Furthermore, snow is an easy material to work with when building an igloo. The arctic winds firmly pack the snow together, making it highly sturdy. Yet, it remains lightweight and can be easily cut into blocks for constructing an igloo.
An experienced igloo builder can complete an igloo in approximately one hour. However, if you have never built an igloo before, it may take you three to six hours or even longer. All you need is an ample supply of packed snow, a few tools, and patience.
Give it a go
Brrr! Do you feel chilly after reading today’s Wonder of the Day? If so, don’t worry. We’re just getting started. Take a look at one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:
Enjoy being creative. Feel free to share pictures of your creations by posting them on the Wonderopolis Facebook page!
- Ready to construct an igloo? If you live in an area with abundant snow, you might be able to build an igloo in your backyard. Learn a few architectural lessons as you collaborate as a family to create your own snow house! Remember to document your progress by taking pictures and writing journal entries. Monitor the strength and warmth of your igloo over the course of several days. Does your igloo become stronger and warmer with each phase of the thawing/refreezing cycle? Explain the science of igloos to a friend or family member while giving them a tour of your temporary shelter!
- If you don’t have enough snow to build a real igloo outside, you can have fun building one indoors with one of these fun craft ideas:
- Sugar Cube Igloo
- Marshmallow Igloo
- Igloo Cake
1. How many blocks are needed to build a traditional igloo?
To build a traditional igloo, you would typically need around 500 to 700 blocks of snow. These blocks are carefully cut from compacted snow using a snow knife or saw. Each block is usually around 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 6 inches thick. The blocks are then stacked in a circular shape, gradually sloping inwards and upwards to form the dome shape of the igloo.
2. Can you build an igloo with any type of snow?
No, not all types of snow are suitable for building an igloo. The best type of snow for building an igloo is dry and powdery snow, commonly referred to as “packing snow.” This type of snow can be easily compacted and shaped into blocks. Wet or slushy snow is not ideal for building an igloo as it does not hold its shape well and can cause the structure to collapse.
3. How long does it take to build an igloo?
The time it takes to build an igloo depends on various factors, such as the skill level of the builders and the size of the igloo. On average, it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to build a small igloo with a diameter of around 8 to 10 feet. Larger igloos can take longer to construct. It is important to take breaks and rest during the building process to avoid overexertion and ensure the safety of the builders.
4. Can you live in an igloo?
While igloos are often associated with Arctic living, they are not typically used as permanent dwellings. Traditional igloos were mainly used as temporary shelters by indigenous Arctic peoples, such as the Inuit, during hunting or travel expeditions. Modern constructions and materials have replaced the need for igloos as permanent residences. However, igloos can still be used for recreational purposes, such as camping or winter adventures.
5. Are igloos warm inside?
Despite the cold temperatures outside, igloos can surprisingly be quite warm inside. The dome shape of the igloo helps to trap heat and provide insulation. The thick snow blocks also act as a natural barrier against the cold. The temperature inside an igloo can be around 32°F (0°C) or slightly higher, depending on the outside weather conditions. However, it is important to use proper insulation and heating sources, such as a seal oil lamp or modern camping gear, to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the igloo.